It was no surprise that perennial candidate Art Jones provided all of the fireworks on Feb. 21 at a candidate forum for Republican candidates running for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District, hosted by the LaGrange Area chapter of the League of Women Voters at the Performing Arts Center at the South Campus of Lyons Township High School.

“I’m pro American, pro-white, pro Christian, pro-life, pro-gun rights and I’m totally opposed to the never-ending Middle East wars,” said Jones in his opening statement. 

Jones, an unabashed white supremacist, claimed that most members of Congress do the bidding of the pro-Israel lobby. 

“It’s the most powerful lobby in Washington, DC,” Jones said. “Let Israel fight its own battles for a change.” 

Jones, a 72-year-old retired insurance salesman who lives in Lyons, was once a member of the American Nazi Party. He was the lone Republican candidate for Congress on the ballot in the 3rd District in 2018. He lost the general election to Dan Lipinski, receiving nearly 26 percent of the vote. 

He has never won a contested race. This year Republicans wanted to make sure that Jones would be opposed in the primary.

Most GOP officials appear to be backing Will County Board member Mike Fricilone for the nomination. Also running is Oak Lawn realtor Catherine O’Shea. The overwhelming Democratic congressional district stretches from the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago southwest to near Joliet and includes the Lyons Township portion of Brookfield and Riverside’s 1st Precinct.

O’Shea and Fricilone were much quieter presences at the forum, which attracted an audience of about 25 people.

Fricilone, 65, who serves as the minority leader on the Will County Board and works as a sales manager for a furniture retailer, said he would work to lower taxes on the middle class, reduce the deficit and help the United States achieve energy independence.

Noting that his grandfathers were born in Poland and Italy, Fricilone said that he supports legal immigration but wants to stop illegal immigration. 

Fricilone said that he would support a pathway to citizenship for those who were brought to the United States as children but lack legal status, once illegal immigration was under control.

All three candidates were skeptical of climate change.

“As far as I’m concerned the climate’s changing all the time and I still don’t believe we have enough data to say everything is changing and the sky is falling,” said Fricilone who added that he supports efforts to improve the environment as long as they are fiscally responsible. 

Jones was more bombastic.

“One active volcano or one herd of cows puts more pollution in the air than anything that we can do,” Jones said. “So, I don’t buy this climate change stuff. This is a just a bunch of Marxist claptrap.” 

All three candidates opposed abortion and all three support some sort of public financing of political campaigns, agreeing that there is too much money in politics.

O’Shea, 54, said that she is the most electable candidate, adding she is a former Democrat who knows Cook County well from her long career as a realtor.

“I know people in Cook County, and they’re not going to vote for either of my opponents,” O’Shea said.

Video of the candidate forum can be found at the League of Women Voters of the LaGrange Area Facebook page.